For weeks now I’ve been wanting to write a post about why I decided to become vegan and why we are raising our kiddos that way. I’ve been writing and rewriting this post in my head over and over. But while I was doing that one night, trying to fall asleep and not succeeding, I realized I’ve never written anything about why I follow Jesus. Now, as important as I feel like my dietary/lifestyle choices have become, Jesus still needs to be first and I felt really compelled to write a post about how I came to know Jesus and what I believe to be true.
Quick background – I grew up Catholic, went to church most Sundays, and completed the religious education classes, but outside of that, I didn’t know much else about God or Jesus. I didn’t really pray much, I didn’t read the Bible (I’m not even sure I had one). I believed in God, but that was it. My grandma passed away when I was 12 and I remember praying for her to be healed when she was sick. And she wasn’t healed. After that, in my 12 year old mind, I thought maybe there is no God if He doesn’t help us when we pray. Then once I got into middle school, my family wasn’t going to church so I didn’t go. I didn’t start attending again until some time in college when Joe invited me to the church he and his mom were attending in Omaha. At the time I was hesitant to go because I didn’t feel I could live up to what I thought a “good Christian girl” should be. But I did go, and went periodically when I was in Omaha.
Before I really started following Jesus, I suffered with an eating disorder during my Freshmen and Sophomore years of college. Like a lot of college Freshmen, I noticed some weight gain and what turned into trying to “be healthier”, quickly spiraled into an obsession. I would go from eating hardly anything to binging on everything in sight and then purging out of fear of gaining weight from my binge. I struggled a lot making friends at a school where I knew no one and took refuge in my eating disorder. I had control of what went into and out of my body and I also became obsessed with exercise. I was at the lowest point of my life during those two years and honestly hated what I had become. I hated my body and felt miserable in my skin. I couldn’t break the addiction. About one year into the disorder, I told my family, including Joe, but I’m not sure they really knew how to help me. I was very good at hiding it and acted like I was fine even when I wasn’t. It was the end of my sophomore year of college that I realized I could not beat this on my own. I remember the last time I binged/purged and knew in my heart I couldn’t do it any more. I was able to get into outpatient treatment with a nutritionist and psychiatrist that started me on my healing process. I am now 11 years free from the disorder! During this time I was still attending church off and on with Joe. I didn’t have much of a relationship with God but He was in the back of my mind. And now looking back I know He allowed me to recognize my need for outside help, though what I really needed at the time was Him.
Fast forward a little bit to my senior year of college. My roommate at the time was Christian and invited me to attend James River Assembly in Springfield, MO where we were attending college. Since I had been going to church with Joe off and on, I felt comfortable going and started going regularly. At the end of one service, the pastor talked about the importance of having a relationship with Jesus. I felt God speaking to me in that moment and I went forward at the end of service where others were available for prayer. That was the day I decided to trust and follow in Jesus at the age of 21. I was baptized there and began my relationship with Jesus.
Since then, I’ve developed relationships and community with other people who believe in Jesus and have grown in my relationship with Him and continue to learn more. I can tell that Jesus has worked in my heart over the years as I am not that same person I was before or even 5 years ago, or last year. There’s a song I like by Britt Nicole titled “All This Time” and these lyrics really stand out to me:
“I hear these people asking me
How do I know what I believe?
Well I’m not the same me
And that’s all the proof I need
I felt love, I felt Your grace
You stole my heart that day”
Now to the meat of what I believe and what Christianity is truly about. It’s not about being perfect, sinless, better than other people or self-righteous. It’s about L-O-V-E: God’s love for us. I’m studying the book of Romans right now in my Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class and it sums up the good news of Jesus.
God doesn’t ask us to come to Him as perfect beings. This idea that I needed to have it all together in order to come to God faded away. He knows we’re imperfect and that’s why He sent His one and only son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to die on the cross for the sins of all of humanity. He loves us so much that he was willing to make that sacrifice so those who believe and have faith in Him, can spend eternity with Him in heaven.
We don’t need to work hard or do good deeds to be saved, we simply have to believe in this free gift that God has provided. If we believe in His gracious gift, we then have faith and are made righteous in His eyes. From my Bible study: “Faith is not a good work. Not only is faith the means of our salvation, it is the ONLY means.” What this means is that the only way to eternal life with God and salvation from sin is through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross. I truly believe in my heart, that this is the only way. It is not exclusive, but inclusive to all. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what you might do in the future, God can meet you right where you are at and loves you just the same.
It has now been 10 years since I was baptized and gave my heart to Jesus. It would be a lie to say that my life has been perfect and seamless ever since then. God doesn’t promise that we won’t have trials and tribulations when we start following Him. In fact He says the opposite:
Right after I was baptized, Joe and I broke up after dating long distance for about 4 years. It was fairly mutual but after some time went by I felt that it was a mistake and that we were still supposed to be together. Despite wanting to get back together, I let myself get tempted by my newfound freedom (Joe was the only person I’d ever dated). Let’s just say some things happened that caused Joe to not even want to speak to me. During this time, I prayed, repented to God for hurting Joe and waited. And waited some more. I wanted desperately to talk to Joe and explain things and fix it. But I couldn’t. I had to wait for God to work on Joe’s heart first. And as you can see it worked. I remember coming home from a Wednesday night prayer service at the church I was attending and getting an email from Joe. He was ready to talk and after a lot of tears and discussion, we were back together and our relationship grew even stronger after that. The difference between our relationship before I knew Jesus and after is night and day. We used to fight, cuss at each other, get jealous with one another and let drama pull us apart. After we both started following and trusting in Jesus, there was a shift towards togetherness, compromise, genuine love and trust.
The second part of that Romans verse I mentioned earlier really touched me when we lost our baby to miscarriage about a year and a half ago. (Read more about that here.) After we found out we were losing the baby, I had doubts. Why would God allow this to happen? We’d prayed for the pregnancy, dreamed what life would be like with that baby and trusted in Him, but it still happened. I was able to hang on to the hope that the suffering we endure will never compare with God’s glory that can be revealed in us. Now being able to look back, I can see how that event sparked our passion for fostering and allowed us to foster a baby. And then of course, if I hadn’t lost that pregnancy, Emilia would not be with us today. And I can’t imagine my life without her. It feels like she’s always been here.
Though I can see how God has worked through suffering in my life and will continue to do so, it can still be hard to understand why there are so many evil things happening in the world if there is only one God and He loves us so much. This is a hard question that I can only answer with: sin. Because sin is still rampant in this broken world, evil things will continue to happen. I can imagine how hard it is to believe in a good God when these things are happening across the world or even in your own life. I can say that when you do believe and come to know Jesus, you will be able to see God working despite the evil that Satan releases onto our lives.
The goal of this post was to share the good news of Jesus. He is available to every single person on this planet, despite anything you may have done in the past. I thought I had to be perfect before coming to God but once I learned more about Him and opened my heart to what He had to offer, I realized that He wanted me just the way I was. And He loves you just the way YOU are.